Is the screen anything to write home about? How about the camera and overall responsiveness? Answers and more in today's smartphone review.
Design & Handling
Like the L7, the Optimus L5 looks sort of like a thicker version of the LG Prada. It's angular with a dotted (non-slip) matte black coating and it's as sober-looking as they come (although was the glossy border really necessary?). All this gives the L5 a markedly different style from the competition, which tends toward rounded edges, all without going overboard. But then, as always, style is subjective.
The L5 fits nicely in the hand and, as with the L7, we appreciate the fact that the touch-sensitive keys aren't overly sensitive and don't get turned on willy nilly.
With a 4-inch HVGA LCD display and only 320 x 480 pixels, the Optimus L5's screen is not one of its selling points. Unlike most smartphones, the protective panel isn't made of glass. On one hand, that means there's less risk of it breaking when you drop the phone. On the other, it means the screen is sensitive to scratching. You also want to make sure not to press too hard on the "soft" screen so you don't damage the liquid crystals (yes, it happens).
By now it's commonplace to find quality displays that have good contrast, good colour accuracy and high brightness on mid-range smartphones. This is not the case here. The colours aren't exemplary (dE of 6.5), the contrast is incredibly low (270:1!) and the viewing angles are narrow. The only really decent thing is the brightness (390 cd/m²). Basically, you end up with black tones that lack depth (they're closer to greys) and difficult legibility whenever you aren't holding the phone right in front of your face. The L5's HTC, Samsung and Huawei counterparts have better screens.
Interface & Navigation
As we mentioned in our review of the Optimus L7, LG has included some helpful goodies in its interface overlay: access to your Favourites directly from the lock screen, quick access to a number of apps and widgets from any of the five homescreens, a customisable notification bar, etc... There are also several additional widgets for personalising your phone.
The L5 is a generally responsive device (downloading apps from Google Play, opening web pages, etc.), but the interface lacks fluidity. It's in no way immune to choppy hiccups when you drag from one screen to another. While it may be less of a handicap than on the L7, any users who've already owned a faster smartphone will certainly notice the difference. As you may have guessed, any big, new video games aren't worth the effort (many you can't even find on Google Play), but smaller games like Angry Birds will run just fine. That, and you have to be okay with playing on a screen that harks from another era.
Perhaps inspired by the L7, the L5's camera decidedly does not produce quality images. The picture is noisy and not very sharp. In fact, the rendering is slightly better on the L5 because it isn't as sensitive.
The headphone signal on the Optimus L5 is reasonable, with proper balancing and dynamics, and little distortion. The volume level is average; it's easily enough to feed any nomadic headphone.
The web browsing experience isn't as enjoyable as it could be, compared to so many smartphones with gorgeous displays out there. Pages load quickly, but you have to use the choppy zoom function just to read text clearly. Hmm, sort of like the L7...
Just as a reminder, the Optimus L7 has a very good battery life—at least 24 hours including extensive 3G and Wi-Fi usage. With the L5 you tend to use it less often than you would an ultra-fast, user-friendly smartphone, and as a result it can last through the end of the day using both 3G and Wi-Fi.
- Decent responsiveness
- Enjoyable interface overlay
- Choppy movements
- Photo & video quality
Nothing about the Optimus L5 makes it stand out from the competition. The multimedia features are lacking and the display, frankly, is mediocre. It does, however, have an enjoyable user interface and acceptable battery life. The L series appears to be having some trouble finding its place on the market.